The past few days, I’ve been mourning the loss of my beloved Nana, who was blessed to have 95 long years on this earth. She was the anchor of our family and her loss is profound. Especially for my mom. To say the two of them were close is a gross understatement.
As my Nana passed through the stages of death and my mom passed through the initial stages of death’s aftermath, I found myself having to comfort her. And as she asked questions like, “Why did her eyes pop open? Is she still alive?” or “Why is she so cold?” I found myself answering her, not from my own experiences, but from the experiences I read about through the Caring Bridge page of Erin Santos, who, through some strength I will never be able to comprehend, described in detail her daughter, Isabella’s, death from neuroblastoma. Never will I be able to erase the poignant images Erin painted of Isabella’s death from my mind. She bravely shared those intimate details for one reason: To pull back the awful curtain that is childhood cancer and expose it for the world to see.
The benefit I derived from Erin’s words over the past few days was absolutely unintended, I’m certain. And not once, not for a single second, did I ever lose sight of the tragic fact that I was using the death of a beautiful, vibrant, seven-year-old girl to assuage my mom’s grief about what she saw when my 95-year-old Nana died. And I feel as if I need to apologize to Erin for that. After all, I used the facts of Ib’s death to to make my mom feel better about the death of a woman who lived 88 years longer than her child. I’m so sorry, Erin. I wish more than anything that I could bring Ib back for you in exchange for the comfort your words brought my mom in her time of grief. I’d do it in a heartbeat.
I knew my Nana well. And I’m certain that if, when she were her “normal” self, I had asked her whether she, at age 95, would sacrifice her life in exchange for that of a sweet, young, seven-year-old girl who was bravely fighting a horrible cancer, without a shred of doubt, I know she would have said yes. Nana loved children and she would have absolutely HATED to see any child suffer. Especially of cancer. Nana DESPISED cancer.
But alas, my Nana was not able to give up her long life in exchange for Ib’s short one. The universe doesn’t work that way.
So as I look toward the heavens, I ask my nana to take all the love she had in her heart and share it with the beautiful children surrounding her who have been taken from their parents by this bastard disease. And I know she will because she was so full of love. I have this image in my mind of Ib doing her “Party in the USA” dance for Nana and Nana is laughing that infectious belly laugh of hers as she watches her with pure joy.
And because of that, I know that when the funeral director asked my mom and me where any donations in my Nana’s memory should go, and I answered, “The Isabella Santos Foundation,” Nana was smiling and nodding her head in approval.